How The Boys Season 3 Is Setting Up The Perfect Winter Soldier Spoof

Warning: major spoilers ahead for episode 5 of "The Boys."

Prime Video's "The Boys" is midway through its season 3 run, and things have never been more glorious (or revolting) — and we are still yet to witness the "Herogasm" episode. The cultural appeal of "The Boys" hinges on a lot of different factors. The show does not shy away from riffing off mainstream pop culture phenomena within the framework of bold satire, but manages to balance it out with equal measures of earnestness and heart.

Homelander (Antony Starr) is a clear superhero pastiche of both Captain America and Superman, and that has been pretty clear since the show's season premiere. Homelander's character is obviously an inversion of the classic superhero tropes, and his brand of patriotism is as toxic as it gets. However, season 3 introduces a brand new character who manages to outshine Homelander in terms of cold-blooded, evil shenanigans. I'm talking about Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), who was essentially the original Homelander before our laser-wielding manchild was born.

Soldier Boy is also an evil version of Captain America in many ways, from his backstory of serving in World War II as a weapon for Vought, to the way in which his values are perceived by the common man. However, season 3 also sets up stark parallels between Soldier Boy and The Winter Soldier, as the former is a spoof on a celebrated American hero being captured by Russians and transformed into a deadly weapon.

A not-so-righteous American hero

The comparisons between Soldier Boy and the Winter Soldier aren't perfect; what happened to Bucky is tragic through and through. Although no one deserves to be experimented on brutally for years, Soldier Boy is obviously not the pinnacle of virtue and heroism some think him to be. He's downright unpleasant and remorseless — abusing his sidekick, Gunpowder, and killing members of Mother's Milk's family in a manner that not only led to M.M.'s father working himself into an early grave in pursuit of justice, but also greatly traumatized M.M. himself and set him on a path to joining The Boys.

The original comics, created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, paint Soldier Boy a tad differently than the series. He's a bad guy, for sure, being the leader of Payback (the original version of the Seven) and sharing key Captain America-esque tenets, including a shield. The Soldier Boy in the comics is extremely cowardly and spineless, willing to do anything to join the Seven somewhere down the line, and this storyline is a clear parody of similar patriotic heroes that exist within superhero narratives.

The comparisons do not end here, as Soldier Boy's first team in the comics was the Avenging Squad (heh), and the "Golden Age" Avenging Squad is a clear parallel to the "Golden Age" All-Winners Squad in the Marvel Comics, which Cap was also a part of. The show presents Soldier Boy's cover story as a brave American hero who "died" for the sake of the nation, although the truth is much more convoluted, as the show proceeds to reveal in episodes 3 and 4. Soldier Boy's utter disregard for anyone except himself is on full display during the Nicaragua incident, wherein he recklessly almost fired a rocket launcher at a munitions dump, which could have alerted enemy camps nearby. Although things do go south due to other reasons, Soldier Boy clearly is not the heroic figure people think him to be.

An unsavory version of Bucky Barnes

In season 3, episode 4 of "The Boys," the titular group infiltrates a Russian lab in Moscow, hoping to uncover a secret weapon named B.C.L.Red, which they believe can help kill Homelander. In a sequence that holds too many visual parallels to Bucky in "The Winter Soldier," the group finds Soldier Boy alive, hooked to a machine, and the latter stumbles out naked and blasts Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) with a radioactive energy blast that knocks her unconscious (Kimiko stops healing, leaving Frenchie understandably distraught).

Like Bucky, Soldier Boy was also presumed dead by the world, the cover story being that he died fighting for a good cause. The key difference is that Bucky did valiantly fight during the war and was captured by a HYDRA unit, and later subjected to brutal experimentation by Arnim Zola. By contrast, Soldier Boy was set up to be captured by the Russians by his own team, including his former lover Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden) — who, along with the rest of his group, had had enough of Soldier Boy's sick power play and manipulation.

Episode 5 opens with M.M. (Laz Alonso) watching footage of Soldier Boy being experimented on by Soviet scientists, who try everything from shooting bullets directing inside his mouth to exposing him to radioactive substances. There's an aspect of comparison to Wolverine as well, who survived experimentation to emerge as a deadlier, more powerful version of himself. Now that he's free, Soldier Boy intends to enact revenge on those who wronged him, as we see in the latest episode.

Now that Butcher has propositioned an alliance with Soldier Boy, will he emerge as the ultimate threat to Homelander? I mean, it sure would be a treat to see Homelander of all people feel threatened by a ghost of the past, powerless in front of someone who can render Supes powerless with one radioactive blast...

"The Boys" season 3 is now streaming on Prime Video, with new episodes released on Fridays.